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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Keegan

Opinion: Wiggins may share something with Wilt, Danny

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Back when Elvis Presley released “Heartbreak Hotel,” Monte Johnson was in the same class as Wilt Chamberlain. The same Kansas University freshman class, that is, not the same class as a basketball player. Twenty-nine years after that, Johnson was KU’s athletic director when Danny Manning decided to come to Kansas to play basketball and earn a degree. Twenty-nine years after that, Johnson reacted Tuesday the same way most Lawrence residents did at the news that the nation’s best high school basketball player will have ‘KANSAS’ spread across his chest throughout next winter. He broke out into a huge smile that stayed with him all day.

Sure, Rivals had Josh Selby ranked No. 1 a few years ago, but Selby just happened to be the last No. 1 in a year there wasn’t a clear-cut top recruit. There were nearly as many No. 1-ranked prospects as there were recruiting services. This is different. The moment Wiggins reclassified from a Class of 2014 recruit to 2013 he shot to the top of a very talented class. He’s been called the best high school recruit since, take your pick: Kevin Durant, Greg Oden, LeBron James.

Wilt, Danny and Wiggins can’t be compared as basketball players because of their different styles and positions and because nobody can be compared to Wilt. But Johnson did point to traits shared by Chamberlain and Manning and to early signs that Wiggins might have them as well: class and humility.

“Wilt and Danny, really good people who came from wonderful families,” Johnson said.

Wiggins didn’t invite ESPN in for a news conference choreographed by the network, replete with baseball caps from all four schools facing the TV cameras. Great sign.

“It tells me a lot about him,” Johnson said. “He wasn’t doing it for the glory or for the attention the way most of them do it.”

Instead, he let a reporter who had covered him in high school break the news via Twitter.

“That’s very telling about what type of person he is,” Johnson said.

Throughout his recruitment, Wiggins appeared to think all the speculation about his college choice, all the importance placed on it, did not make sense. He seems to get that just because he happens to be really good at something that generates huge audiences on TV and in person doesn’t make him more important than heads of state.

Manning’s the same way and, according to Johnson, so was Wilt, who to that point was the most talented basketball player ever. (A compelling argument still could be made that nobody has knocked the Babe Ruth of basketball off that perch.)

photo

Associated Press

In this file photo from Dec. 5, 1955, Kansas University freshman Wilt Chamberlain (23) scores a goal during a freshman intrasquad game. At left is freshman Monte Johnson (6).

“We all heard talk about this 7-footer from Philadelphia, but we had no way of seeing him play,” Johnson said. “It’s not like you could watch highlight clips then. It wasn’t until I saw him our first freshman practice that I was able to appreciate and understand what they were talking about.”

All these years later, Johnson still sounded in awe of what he saw that first practice.

“I was thinking, ‘Where in the hell did this guy get these skills? He could jump out of the gym, run like a deer,” Johnson said. “He did things I had never seen before, did them with unbelievable grace, unbelievable coordination. I thought, ‘Boy, am I lucky to get on the same team with him.’”

You make your own breaks in life. Johnson made his first big one by scoring 27 points for Wyandotte High in a home game against Shawnee Mission North. A relative of Phog Allen’s happened to be in the stands. He let the coach know what he saw and KU assistant coach Dick Harp contacted him to arrange a home visit.

“That was a little uncomfortable for me,” Johnson said. “We were so poor I thought they maybe they were coming to the house to figure out how to buy us some food.”

He received an academic scholarship and was told he could have a basketball scholarship if he could become a starter for the freshman team by the end of the year. He did and even became a part-time starter for the varsity in later years.

Johnson hired Larry Brown, who in turn hired Ed Manning as an assistant, and Danny and the Miracles delivered a national title to Kansas in 1988.

Now Johnson will enjoy KU’s third great recruit along with 16,299 from a seat alongside his wife, Kay, at center-court, halfway up, backs on their chairs. A gift from the school for his service as athletic director? Not quite. It doesn’t work that way. He made some nice investments in businesses that deal in that bubblin’ crude that comes up through the ground, oil, that is, black gold, Kansas tea.

Comments

Steve Corder 11 months, 1 week ago

Another question is: How will Bill Self handle this level of talent? The answer will undoubtedly have major consequences in future recruiting.

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Beate Williams 11 months, 1 week ago

He simply left out the part about it being in his dream.

Welcome Mr. Wiggins, looking forward to seeing you perform at AFH but also at other Big 12 venues. You are going to love your stay at KU and will be so grateful that anywhere you go, KU will be there to cheer you on.

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KemDooKU 11 months, 1 week ago

Don't care about comparing Wiggins to anyone - glad he is hear and not UK because this gives us a shot at beating UK in the tournament or any team at that - video displays freakish skills that I can only do around 2:00 am in my pajamas. May be the next HOF to come out of Kansas since Paul P. -

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Steve Gantz 11 months, 1 week ago

If Wiggins for some reason would stay for three or four years then we could compare him to Danny and Wilt. But if he leaves after a year, then he's just another nice player who came through town. Give us a NC and maybe that tune changes a little bit, but it's not likely for such a young team to win the whole thing.

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jaybate 11 months, 1 week ago

It's increasingly clear to me that Wiggins will sign with either UK, or FSU.

No, wait, that was then and this is now.

I figure Andrew will hang 43 on UK in an easy KU win in next year's Finals.

No, wait, UK can't be counted on with great talent anymore, can they?

Cal REALLY has to be sweating Tarik's decision.

If Self signs Tarik, KU wil be able to play UK anyway they want.

Go, Bill, go!

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Mick Allen 11 months, 1 week ago

If you are going to preach the virtues of an education, learn to spell it. "Self centered opinion of himself"? The kid comes across as extremely humble and self effacing. It is nice that you are hopefully getting some sunshine after being confined in a cave for the last 25 years. Go rain on someone else's parade and welcome to the year 2013.

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Fred Whitehead Jr. 11 months, 1 week ago

Yeah, greed, "self" centered opinionof himself, total disregard of the value of having a life-time education, should I go on??

These "one year wonders" disgust me. The purpose of an ecucation insitiution is to educate, not to fawn and bow to entertainers.

This is a fraud in the extreme, but since basketball is such a holy religion here, well, it is likely to continue.

The university has no scruples in regard to this scam, so it will continue;

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FearlessJayhawk 11 months, 1 week ago

That was the thing that impressed me as well. When he didn't make a big hupla over signing, it showed me he has his head on straight. He comes from a good family (which is rare these days). I don't want to sound greedy, but I hope he reaches his potential early and sets all kinds of records.

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Eric Bernauer 11 months, 1 week ago

I too am afraid that Wilt's legacy as the greatest college basketball player ever may be diluted by the modern media's overhype machine. If you've been born in the last 30 years, you have grown up with the cable, and now internet 24 hour news cycle that feeds on the constant need to say something, anything, to fill the time. If you don't have anything new to report, you just repeat the same story in different ways. Unfortuneately, it leads to good players being built up as great players only to be tossed aside in months as some new-on -the-scene good player is built up as great. And for us, the consumer of the news, to toss last weeks great player's name onto the scrapheap of the other former "great" players. We are vulnerable to lump all the former great players as equals. Wilt does not deserve this fate. I would contend he is the single most influential player in the history of college basketball. As he was busy re-writing the record book on the court, the rules committee was busy re-writing the rule book off the court due to his abilities and the fear that future athletes of his caliber would make a mockery of the game. They needed not worry. As much as our athletes have improved since the Fifties, nobody's presence has transcended the game as Mr. Chamberlain did in Allen Fieldhouse during his time as a Jayhawk. One could argue that there have been other players who possessed greater skills: Pistol Pete's magic skills should never be forgotten. However, nobody dominated the game forcing rule changes as Wilt did. Don't you younger Jayhawks ever forget Wilt, don't you dare.

On to our newest Jayhawk BBall player. Because of the hype of not only Andrew Wiggins, but also our whole incoming freshman class, I hope they are not prematurely branded as busts come December. Andrew has been branded as this year's "great" one among a banner year of talented high school seniors. Before we start talking Final Four we need to remember his high school team lost three times this past year. Yes, even against high school players, Mr. Wiggins team can lose. I don't doubt his talent in the least, I just hope us fans keep our expectations on the ground.

RCJH

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Cameron Cederlind 11 months, 1 week ago

There's really no way to compare these guys, Danny was a senior when he won the title, during Wilts time you couldn't play as a freshmen and stayed for 3 years. Wiggins as a freshmen will be doing things neither of these guys did, it's a different time and a faster game now. All 3 (including Wiggins) are great jayhawks. If Wiggins was at KU for 3 or 4 years he will have blown every KU record away and I think that shows how amazing this kid is.

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Mike Ford 11 months, 1 week ago

one has to love the mythology of this town. this kid's dad played for the Chicago Bulls Pre Jordan. He has played as an amateur in Canadian tourneys and has a world view as a Canadian that most americans could only dream of. Having been to Ontario and Quebec a number of times these people have a reserved nature about themselves and many see americans as blowhards. I was told this by an Ojibwe museum curator in Brantford Ontario a number of years ago. Keep proving them right.

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Woody Cragg 11 months, 1 week ago

Am pleasantly surprised he will attend the University of Kansas. Minutes will betougher for a lot of others now.

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Ron Franklin 11 months, 1 week ago

Bill needed this.

I just hope folks remember next year that Andrew hasn't said all these great things about himself. The hypesters have built everybodys expectations so high, that it seems like he can only fail to meet those expectations. Sometimes I think the media builds up just to tear down and have another story.

I"m deciding to go into this next year without any expectations for Andrew.

And I hope for his sake that some of the nastiness that can come out on this board never comes to fruition because we all know going into next year that our belief regarding Andrew's skills is built only upon our perception of his high school performance.

He has not played D1 College Ball, and that will be the true test of his ability.

Rock Chalk, Andrew! Thanks for starting our summer off right :)

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nuleafjhawk 11 months, 1 week ago

"Wilt, Danny and Wiggins can’t be compared as basketball players because of their different styles and positions and because nobody can be compared to Wilt."

Thanks to Mr Keegan for including those last six words. I am ecstatic that Andrew Wiggins chose KU, but there has never been, nor will there ever be another Wilt.

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Michael Pannacciulli 11 months, 1 week ago

Maybe he wasn't the highest ranking but Paul Pierce is certainly in our Mt. Rushmore of KU legends. The next likely unnamed candidate would be Clyde Lovellette alongside Wilt and Danny.

One Year Wiggins will be great fun to watch. I can't wait.

Random thought: If you were working KUs PR yesterday, have you ever receieved a better freebie than yesterdays news?

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Abdu Omar 11 months, 1 week ago

I am sorry, but I remember the hype when Josh Selby was recruited. He was a dud in my opinion and I don't like the hype for Andrew Wiggins. He may be a top player or he may not, but isn't there some kind of "prove yourself" in college ball? I see Perry Ellis come on strong at the end of the year, and Mclemore fade a little, so let's see this guy play in a big game, then pass judgment. I am truly happy that Mr. Wiggins chose Kansas and I am a huge fan, but I am also a realist and hope that he performs to his hype. Looking forward to that first game!

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jaybate 11 months, 1 week ago

Substitute Tom for Jane's Gettin' Serious.

Tom's gettin' serious.

He is quoting from pop kultur--Heartbreak Hotel and The Beverly Hillbillies--and tying it into sports figures coming from hard times and getting prosperous and hanging on to their humanities, rather than being undone. He is even tying it in with oil. There is a light on upstairs and a use for the fancy eaton' tables in a post modern neo-New Journalism kinda way--an electric kool aid, man-in-full kinda way without no heavy hand.

Nice multi-layered showing and not telling, Tom. You are part of the living myth. Fracking and cracking good writing.

"Come listen to my story

'bout a man named Tom

A pixel burned wretch

Barely kept his family fed..."

Ha! In fact, your family is most fortunate. And so is Mitchell's.

Rock Chalk! .

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